“Prayer is the most significant form of communication that humans, specifically parents, can engage in. When a Christian talks to God, all the power of heaven is at play, and cultures, nations, and history lay in the balance. For parents, talking to our kids is critical; talking to God about them is even more so.” —Will Davis Jr.
Mornings could always be counted on when I was a child. I was the first one up, my brother would eat a massive amount of cereal, my mom would sip a cup of hot tea, and my dad would start out the day on his knees. I would frequently make the error of running into my parents’ room to grab something too early and find him, having just rolled out from the covers, on his knees beside the bed, hands clasped, head bowed in silent homage. I remember, even as a very young child, understanding that I had just interrupted something very sacred, and would quickly close the door and gingerly inch away. It was only as I grew older that I understood just how sacred those steady morning prayers had been. When I graduated from high school, he pulled out a crinkled piece of paper that he had kept on his nightstand all those years. It was a list, a list of all the things he had been praying for my siblings and I since before we were born. He had prayed for our spouses, that we would find Christ as our Savior, and once we did, to live inside of the plan He had for us, and countless other blessings that I can’t even begin to recount. I do remember feeling awed at how many of these requests had already come to fruition and unutterably grateful that he had prayed so faithfully for so many years before actually seeing any results. I will never fully know how the persistence of my father’s prayers changed the landscape of my life, but I want to be a part of helping to shape my children’s future in the same way.
There are some things we just can’t do for our children. We can make them peanut butter sandwiches and tie their shoes. We can make sure they have all their homework stuffed neatly into their little backpacks, and that they make it to the bus stop on time, but we cannot change their hearts. There a lot of things we can and are called to do to help foster heart change, but ultimately, they are responsible for their own sweet souls. That’s where prayer comes in. We can come in contact with the One Being who does wield the power to shape souls.
Though Kyle and I do make it a daily habit to pray together for our children, I will admit that I have not been as persistent, pointed, or consistent, as I should be. If prayer has the potential to hold this much power over my child’s future, I want to make sure that I do it right.
This post is a compilation of some of the best thoughts and ideas I could find on the subject as I’ve been researching how to pray for my children more effectively.
The quote above is from an article by Will Davis Jr. that discusses the importance of offering “pinpoint” as opposed to “no point” prayers for our children. So many times in the lives of our children, and in our own lives, we pray with only the most basic human needs or goals in mind. For ourselves we might pray something like, “God, let me survive this Friday without having to drink more than 3 cups of coffee and without any nasty comments from my customers.” For our children, we might pray, “Lord, please help us get through today without a giant tantrum,” or “Please help my teenager not be too rebellious." We should definitely start with these sorts of prayers, but we shouldn’t end there. God wants more us than just survival, He wants us to thrive and experience the kind of joy and victory that His cross purchased for us, and He wants us to ask Him for it. One of the greatest invitations in the Bible is the call to, "seek and find," to, "knock and find the door opened for us." In the article, which I highly recommend that you read, Davis points out the difference between prayers which are too vague and “safe” and prayers which are “bold” and “specific.”
In the vein of bold and specific prayers, this post has a list of 40 alphabetized Biblical requests or blessings that are wonderful to pray over our children, such as endurance, humility, and generosity. I plan to post this list somewhere in our house, and pick one out to pray for our children whenever I pass by and have a spare moment. Here is another list I found with 32 “virtues” to pray for your children.
Mark Batterson has released a companion book to his best selling book on prayer, “The Circle Maker,” called “Praying Circles Around Your Children.” I have yet to read it, but in this post, he gives some practical pointers that he reiterates in his book. My two favorites are keeping a prayer journal for your children and developing a prayer “mantra” for your children. Similar to my father’s list, Batterson suggests writing down prayers that are specific and meaningful for each of your children and using that as your go to for your prayer times. When I was pregnant with my son, I was fairly diligent in recording my prayers for him, but have since lost track. I would love to be able to one day present both my children with a journal of all of our prayers for them like my father did for me. I am also excited about working on this project together with my husband!
Batterson also suggests choosing a simple, repeatable prayer that can be your family’s sort of prayer theme to be prayed over them in all seasons of life. In the Batterson home, they use Luke 2:52, which speaks of Jesus’ development from childhood to adulthood, “"May you grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with man." In my house growing up, my dad would pray a blessing from Numbers over us every single night, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace,” or in his own little version, “When He thinks about you, may He smile.” Since my dad is a pastor, all three of us kids had the privilege of having him perform our wedding ceremonies. I remember his joyful yet tearful ending to each ceremony, as he stretched out his hand over the new couple and repeated the well used blessing. It was such a fitting cap to our childhood, and I now rejoice knowing that not only does he continue to pray for me, but for my own children.
I also want to make it a habit to pray with my children and as a family. One thing that my parents did very well was creating a culture of prayer in our home. If we said we needed help with a certain situation at school, they would stop whatever they were doing, wrap their arms around us, and take us before the Lord with our request. If someone we knew was ill or going through a rough time, my parents would often turn off the tv or immediately stop whatever we were doing, gather us a family, and we would all join in corporate prayer for our friend. If one of us was going on a trip, or had an important event coming up, we would all gather around the family member and pray for protection, for wisdom, and for success. I even remember that as a little girl my dad would take the time to pray with me before every soccer game, since at the time, soccer was the biggest event in my life. We didn't just talk about things to each other. We discussed them amongst ourselves and then we brought them before our Heavenly Father. As a result, we children naturally learned to take our requests, whatever they were--soccer games, banged up knees, or college applications--before God. It wasn't strange for us to drop everything and pray.
We knew that prayer was not a magic spell, or a guaranteed method for getting whatever we wanted via a Divine "Vending Machine," but we knew that it was important, and that despite the outcome, when we placed the situation in God's hands, He could be trusted with the outcome. I want to teach my children to make prayer a non negotiable part of their everyday lives, not just something to be done at meal times and before bed, but something to be done "without ceasing," and "on all occasions with all prayers and requests." I cannot tell you the number of times that my father explained to us that the Greek phrase "without ceasing" was the same used to describe a "hacking cough." It should be something we just can't stop ourselves from doing all the times. In every occasion, prayer just spills out.
Thank you mom and dad for leaving me such an incredible legacy of prayer. I pray that I will be able to pass on even a fraction of your wisdom to my children. What are some of your ideas for praying with your kids?
Brooke Hamlin is a blogger at Theunboring.com. She is a wife to studly youth pastor Kyle, and mother to a hilarious, almost two year old, Ryder, and an upcoming baby girl Hadley. She loves chocolate, laughter, more chocolate, and couldn't live without her imagination and blank pieces of paper.